Jay Z had high hopes.

"Last time I was here, I had one of the greatest shows of my life," the rapper told the crowd, likely referring to his excellent co-headlining date with Justin Timberlake in July at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. "So, I'm expecting nothing less than an amazing show."

It's good to know we were all on the same page -- since that's exactly what the 9,000-plus fans in attendance were expecting as well. Jay Z, for the most part, lived up to that forecast during his concert on Wednesday at the SAP Center in San Jose.

The set list was spectacular and the performance was nearly as impressive. Jay Z, who lost the hyphen in his name earlier this year, sounded superb as he slung the rhymes that earned him the title of "The King of Hip-Hop."

The best part of the approximately 100-minute show, however, was the straightforward production. While Kanye West and others rely on big props and flashy special effects to dazzle the crowd, Jay Z went the other direction and delivered a show nearly bereft of bells and whistles. It was basically just Jay Z working the stage in front of a rocking live band, which included producer Timbaland, and slinging the lines to some of the greatest songs in hip-hop history. And that was more than enough.

It was a refreshing change of pace for a genre that, production wise, seems to borrow more from the glitzy pop world with each passing year. Jay Z certainly has the resources to create a mammoth piece of eye candy. Yet, this current Magna Carter World Tour -- in support of this year's "Magna Carta ... Holy Grail" -- comes across more like a club show, supersized to fit in arenas.

You need plenty of charisma to get away with something like that -- and Jay Z has that in abundance. It's always a treat to just see him take the stage, providing the jolt of excitement that comes whenever one is in the presence of an all-time great.

"I feel like (expletive) Cassius Clay," he told the audience.

The 44-year-old rapper then went about showing that he's still in fighting shape. From the start, he was utterly magnetic and compelling, making one believe, as he boasts in "The Blueprint" track "U Don't Know," that he could indeed "sell fire in hell." He was especially strong with the newer numbers, such as "Magna Carta" cuts "Crown" and "Holy Grail" as well as "Blueprint 3" offering "On to the Next One," with each one sounding even stronger onstage than on record.

His pace began to slow toward mid-set, which was about the time he took a break and handed things over to Timbaland, who basically killed time while Jay Z changed his shirt and donned some more bling.

"Are you ready to take it to the next level?" Timbaland cried out to the crowd.

That's what happened when Jay Z returned to the stage and ignited the crowd with such longtime fan favorites as "Dirt off Your Shoulder" and winning new songs like "Somewhereinamerica." But he cooled off at exactly the wrong time, failing to bring the show to a close in convincing fashion despite an encore that featured such potential slam-dunks as "Empire State of Mind" and "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)."

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.